We don’t often think of the financial impact when we talk about honesty and integrity, but they do exist. In 2014, the insurance industry estimated global losses due to dishonesty and fraud in the workplace at $3.7 TRILLION annually. There are financial impacts to both individuals and our organizations.
On an individual level, those that have integrity and deal with others honestly, may get that promotion over someone who lacks integrity. If my boss feels they can trust me, I may be offered more opportunities and receive higher raises. Those opportunities often allow me to demonstrate my skills to a wider audience.
Organizations will also benefit from having a workforce with integrity. This has to be an example that is encouraged from the top down. People that come into contact with an organization will tend to mimic the corporate culture. If a vendor observes me being dishonest, they may deal with the business in dishonest ways because they believe this behavior is acceptable within the company. Coworkers who observe me fudge my expense report may believe it is okay to fudge theirs. Customers who observe me being dishonest may lack trust in me, and they may decide to buy from my company’s competitor.
Definition of Integrity and Honesty
Thomas Paine said that “Character is much easier kept than recovered.” Most of us extend to one another, the benefit of assumed good character when beginning a relationship. This favorable opinion is ours to keep or lose. If we value integrity and honesty, it is likely that we will not lose it.
Integrity is defined by dictionary.com as “soundness of moral character; honesty.” Integrity is more than knowing the right thing to do, integrity is doing the right thing. Integrity requires action. A person of integrity will choose the right thing to do, even if it has detrimental results for themselves. They will choose to do the right thing even in the face of opposition.
For example, let’s say a boss represents an employee’s good idea as their own, and the employee questions the boss about this during the next gathering at the coffee pot. The coworkers gathered there may support the boss or they may remain silent because they don’t want to get involved. Coworkers with a strong sense of integrity may speak up that the idea was in fact not the boss’s idea, even though it will likely not endear them to the boss.
Will you be the coworker who demonstrates integrity?
Others will notice what you do because our integrity and honesty is observable. In the workplace, this includes coworkers of all levels, customers, and suppliers. Whether we are cleaning restrooms or leading large companies, our behavior impacts others and the dynamics within our workplace. If we behave in dishonest ways or fail to demonstrate integrity, we give others permission to misbehave too.
Whether I am cleaning restrooms, and those around me know I will not say or do anything if they steal a few rolls of paper towels, or I am a manager tasked with cutting costs, and I keep my pet project while cutting a project that will have had a bigger impact on the health of the company. In both situations, everyone will discover that I lack integrity. Even the “little white lies” we tell may be uncovered. Without knowing our good intended motivation for our white lie, others will simply see us as dishonest.
Leadership Starts at The Top
A corporate culture that fosters integrity and honestly needs to start with top leadership. Let’s say employees observe the owner of their company purchase new living room furniture for their home on the company expense account may believe that the owner believes it’s okay to pull one over on “the man.” After all, “the man” can afford to absorb small losses. In this case, the owner has given permission to the employees to follow this behavior, perhaps not realizing that they are one of “the man’s” to their employees.
I say it’s a lot easier just to be honest. It really is! Try throwing out even the little white lies; they are still lies. Sometimes the truth hurts, but discovering that you have been lied to will likely hurt more. Be determined to be someone with high integrity and incorruptible. Your children and grandchildren will take notice and want to be like you. Others surrounded by you will take notice, and you and your organizations will reap the positive benefits.
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